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Radeon 8500/7500 Review
Author : Martyn and Wayne Date : 20th November 2000

Radeonic would like to thank ATi for supplying the Radeon 8500 and 7500 for review purposes.

Radeon 7500/8500 Review
By Martyn and Wayne, 29th October 2001

Since the demise of 3dfx, no other product announcement has generated the kind of speculation, rumor and fierce debate that R200 did. From taunts that it would just be a GeForce 3 wannabe which showcased ATi's lousy drivers to tempting glimpses of "leaked" benchmarks that showed it to be nicely ahead of the GeForce 3, the 'Net just couldn't get enough speculation and insider information.

Well, at last the wait is over and R200, now in its guise as the Radeon 7xxx and 8500 is either on shelves or well on its way, and what everybody wants to know is "how good is it?"

The most difficult task facing us here at Radeonic is to convince you that we can be unbiased, and that we're not going to praise the new Radeon range out of some strange, hypnotic brand loyalty. We are ATi fans for sure, but that if anything makes us a touch more critical. We too can get frustrated that potentially great features are broken in the drivers or that promised advancements turn out to be nothing but hype and have no problem telling it like it is.

To convince you, the reader of our impartiality, I had come up with a few plans :

1/ Tell you we hate ATi and hope the 8500 is a flop : No chance we'd get away with that, the site's name is Radeonic after all!

2/ Tell you that ATi wanted the card back and we're really annoyed : Nope, can't go that way either because ATi DO want the card back, and we're really annoyed (well, upset).

3/ Hope you've read our other reviews and trust us : I'm afraid this is the route we're gonna have to take.

Beyond the marketing :

When ATi announced a core and memory speed of 250/275 for the 8500, most people assumed ATi would stick to tradition and produce final silicone that didn't manage those speeds. Well in fact that's what happened, but fortunately for all of us the final silicone was running faster not slower, shipping with a core/memory clock of 275/275 (550DDR) or 290/230 (460DDR) for the 7500.

Much had been made of the benefits of TRUFORM and SMOOTHVISION, and while having seen TRUFORM in action has left me convinced about its real world benefits, we have yet to see SMOOTHVISION in operation. ATi claims it will be enabled in the next driver revision due mid November, but they are asking for trouble releasing these cards with such a major feature missing, even if only temporarily. If I were the cynical type, I'd wonder why ATi was releasing cards for review with this feature missing then asking for them back before the feature became enabled in the drivers. Is it possible SMOOTHVISION is performing way below expectations or is ATi's claim that sample boards are thin on the ground accurate? I guess most of you will find out for yourselves, though perhaps only after having bought one.

Much has already been said about the quality of R200's shipping drivers, and though I'll be the first to admit they still lack refinement, nobody here has witnessed any of the examples of freezing, rebooting and general bad behavior mentioned by some other sites. Some reviewers seem to have conveniently short memories when it comes to driver quality and have an uncanny ability to forget the state NVIDIA's drivers were in during the early months. I know because I bought one the first GeForces to hit the UK, and even the GeForce 2 I bought later had its fair share of glitches, not to mention the AGP power supply fiasco. ATi however have a notorious reputation for great products destroyed by lousy drivers, and I think it's time the public realized that ATi's drivers don't stink, and for ATi to realize that while they don't stink, they're far from great. If I were ATi I'd make some serious investment in the driver team, an investment I'm certain they'd recoup many times over as word got out and confidence in the product increased.

We intend to take a look at both the 7500 and the 8500 in this review, but before we get to the specific cards let's have a quick tour of some of technologies that make the R200 such a sweet proposition.